At Milson Island on New South Wales’s Hawkesbury River, a weekend-long residential seminar offers an alternative, small-scale conference format free from hierarchy. Alice Hampson, Michael Lavery and John Thong reflect on their experiences at Deerubbin 2016.
In mid-March, around 150 delegates gathered for the second ever Deerubbin conference – a weekend-long residential seminar hosted by the Architecture Foundation Australia at Milson Island on New South Wales’s Hawkesbury River. The weekend promised “good people and good architecture all together” and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Uncle Max Dulumunmun Harrison, Aboriginal Elder of the Yuin people, personified the spirit of the gathering with his welcome to country. Filled with generosity and wisdom, this was a greeting from our guide to country, landscape and purpose. Rather than being instructive, Harrison instead set out a path to openness and awareness for us and asked us to think about the place and to question ourselves.
Many conferences are held together by a theme. The Deerubbin 2016 speakers worked with “Hots and Cools” (not just an instruction for packing – thanks Julie Stout from New Zealand firm Mitchell and Stout Architects). The speakers explored this theme as a subtext for their work, investigating longitude, latitude and altitude within this framework. However a broader theme – one inherent in the approach to all the work discussed – was that of respect. Respect for place, materiality, craft, cultural values, community and each other. This was a weekend based in architecture that speaks to broader issues. It was perhaps this connection between architecture and ideas of community and culture that attracted such a variety of genuinely interested participants and passionate and engaged sponsors.
It was refreshing to attend a conference where there was no pretension, and where the only expectations were of being surrounded by good people and being inspired by a genuine commitment to architecture. Interestingly, there were many attendees who were not architects or architecture students and who simply had an interest in architecture. […]